If you have not already done so, explain to your child how girls get pregnant and how babies are made. Help your child connect that this means that every child has one mummy and one daddy who “made” them. In some cases, however, the biological mummy or daddy is unable to take care of them, thus some children are cared for by other caring, trusted adults; for example, adoptive or foster parents who can love the children as their own.
Share with them that there are unfortunate cases where the mummy or daddy does not want to form a family or stay together as a family, such as in the case of a divorce. They may in fact create a new family unit consisting of other people, such that there is now more than one mummy or daddy.
It is important at this age to discuss with your child about typical sexual development so that you can thereafter explain that some people develop differently from the norm. This is usually a passing phase of exploring different aspects of who they are, for example, whether they are of the opposite sex or feeling attracted to someone of the same sex. However, some people may choose as adults to form an alternative kind of family unit consisting of only one or neither of the child’s biological mummy or daddy.
Come to a consensus with your spouse on your family’s stand and opinions on these alternative family forms, so that you can explain to your child your values in a calm and thoughtful way. Regardless, assure them of your love as their parents and of the stability of your relationship with your spouse.
Children at this age are likely to have been exposed to ideas and arguments for alternative family forms that may consist of only one or neither of the child’s biological dad or mum. Discuss how it is a normal passing phase to explore different aspects of who a person is, for example, whether they are of the opposite sex or feeling attracted to someone of the same sex. However, some people may choose as adults to form an alternative kind of family unit consisting of only one or neither of the child’s biological mummy or daddy.
As they grow, your teens may be increasingly clued in about different forms of sexual attraction and may have formed certain opinions about each one of them. Discover what they think and feel by continuing the conversations about sex and sexuality, from having a girlfriend/boyfriend to having sex.
Explain to them the difference between biological sex, gender identity and sexual attraction. Our biological sex is determined by our genitalia and should correspond with our gender identity and sexual attraction. For a small minority, they might experience an incongruence between their biological sex and gender identity, and/or sexual attraction. These incongruences sometimes cause them to readjust their lives in a way that does not align to their biological sex, leading them to form family units that are different from the norm.
Come to an agreement with your spouse on what your family’s stand and opinions are on these alternative family forms. Explain them to your child in a calm and thoughtful way, and invite their feedback on what they think about families with different values and ideals. Answer any questions they might have honestly, including admitting if you lack the necessary information and offering to learn together with them about such complex issues. Regardless, assure them of your love as their parent and of the stability of your relationship with your spouse.
If an alternative sexual lifestyle or family form is shown on a movie you are watching together, use that to start on a conversation on whether they noticed and what they thought about it. Listen calmly without judgement. Teenagers tend to be more emotional than rational, and could also be very politically aware with a great sense of social justice. Affirm your child for their desire to make a difference in the world, and their passion for wanting to right any wrongs. Listen to their thoughts and be curious about why they think the way they do. Discuss with them the increasing cultural representation of these alternative family forms – do they think it is accurate, what could be its effects on individuals and society, and how does it impact their lives?
Teach your children how to have rational and respectful conversations about such issues with their friends or on the internet, how to express their opinions clearly, and what to do when people do not respond kindly or respectfully to their views. These may be difficult conversations to have because the issue is complex, but emphasise the principle that we always treat people with respect and kindness regardless of whether we agree with them.
Continue to help them develop their sense of identity and model what it means to be male and female. While hormones might be raging at this stage and sex might fill much of their minds, help them to understand that sexuality, though important, is just a part of their larger, whole identity. When your child knows that you are comfortable and honest in answering any questions about sexuality that they have, they will continue to come to you as a good source of information and advice.
© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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